Friday, March 10, 2017

La bouillabaisse Macron

Robert Hue is backing Macron. Dominique Villepin is backing Macron. Daniel Cohn-Bendit is backing Macron. Alain Madelin is backing Macron. Bertrand Delanoë is backing Macron. What strange bouillabaisse is this? Macron's christic tendencies have made him an extraordinary fisher of men, and out of the troubled waters of French politics he has fetched up an extraordinary haul of political has-beens (pardon the unkindness). Strange bedfellows hardly does justice to this extraordinary ménage.

Of course all these supporters are quick to say that while they support Macron, they are not Macronistes, but since no one knows what Macronisme is, this doesn't tell us much. Listen to Hue, the former Communist leader:

Je n’ai pas cédé à je ne sais quelle mutation social-démocrate ni, moins encore, succombé au parfum libéral dans l’air du temps. Soyons clairs, je continue de penser que l’heure n’est pas à l’aménagement mais au dépassement de cette société inégalitaire dans laquelle perdurent et grandissent des injustices inacceptables et révoltantes.

Personally, I'd settle for a little aménagement, leaving dépassement to less desperate times. It seems impossible for anyone to say simply that Macron's politics, if unexciting, are cautiously sensible, and that should be enough when his opponents are calling for exit from the EU and euro or anticipating the disappearance of work or proposing to eliminate 500,000 civil service jobs. But the name "common sense" has been appropriated by a group opposed to gay marriage, so even saying one is in favor of common sense has become politicized.

I personally am quite fond of bouillabaisse, but I think Macron's needs to be flavored with a strong dose of aïoli lest this mixture of strange old fish develop an unpalatable flavor of fishiness. With a little judicious seasoning from the chef, a satisfactory meal could soon be set on the table.

43 comments:

Sophie said...

Yes, the aioli is what's missing -Macron already has the old croutons!

Alexandra Marshall said...

HAHAHAHA this metaphor is making me hungry and wistful to go to Marseille ASAP.

I think old fish stink might be somewhat reassuring in a chaotic election. Even if change is fetishized, too much at once, from a novice that only has a 58% intention... old fish presence could be just what it takes for people like a dear friend's mother in law who lives in the Alps. Her politics are not far from Macron, but she was pro-FIllon and last month simply said of EM, "il est trop jeune." One person's crusty is another's comforting familiarity. Just spitballing here, but as we get older (or at least as I have gotten older) we can have warmer sentiments for the old dogs of our day even if we're glad they're no longer running things. I got misty when Barney Frank stepped down, Biden too, and in both cases their politics are way too far to the right for me. All these old heads and famous names are good branding for the novice.

FrédéricLN said...

Hello, "a little aménagement, leaving dépassement to less desperate times": important point! Wouldn't dépassement be the adequate move in (and only i) desperate times? I've probably been a little too Clintonian last time, I'll stick to Sanders this time! Just my feeling.

brent said...

Perhaps its the daily exposure to Trump but i'm having trouble seeing what's NOT desperate about these times. Authoritarian control of the American narrative, the increasing assaults on the European idea, the success of nationalist statism in Russia, China, India, Turkey, et al., and the blithe advance of the global billionaire class ... That said, I'm willing to concede that--in the apparent failure of a unified Left--there is nothing much but Macron standing between us and the devastating reality of a Le Pen presidency. But if Macron's amenagement is just more Hollandiste blather, it will only keep the Titanic afloat for a few more years--but perhaps that's something.

Bernard said...

I am flabbergasted that a connoisseur such as you would not realize that what you are asking for is a bourride, not a bouillabaisse. The bourride of course is a very garlicky fish dish, white in appearance. Both you and alexandra Marshall should thus head towards not Marseille but sete, home amongst other fine men and women of Brassens. As for the old croutons, I guess they are concerned in avoiding allowing la France rance a seat at the table. They perhaps are not quite familiar with the fiscal wedge and its role in shaping a low growth future, as this has not been on the menu served by past governments.

Anonymous said...

The perfect is the enemy of the good in politics. Whatever Macron's limitations, they are infinitely preferable to LePen's.
The larger question is "Why would younger voters be more receptive to LePen's errant nonsense?" As in the U.S., there's the exhaustion of the main parties, their betrayal of the populace, the substitution of canards for results, the influence of large, organized extra-political groups of the right and left and the corresponding subsuming of communities and the individuals that comprise them to agendas far from the values of either our or the French Republic's. A few brave men and women could have an impact, but instead we have "leaders of mice", not men. Macron is young enough, energetic enough and smart enough to lead. Can a "French Kennedy" alone reconstitute the fabric of French government? Well, he's got more chance than anyone else, and will do less harm than the bulldozer that is Marine Le Pen. That is what the disparate group of endorsers see --and maybe they're right.

Anonymous said...

"It seems impossible for anyone to say simply that Macron's politics, if unexciting, are cautiously sensible, and that should be enough when his opponents are calling for exit from the EU and euro...."

I don't know, Arthur, but I have heard quite a few TV pundits, with excellent academic and journalisitic credentials, saying precisely that. It doesn't take much perspicacity or intelligence at this point to realize that Macron is the only show in town.

bert said...

That Robert Hue or anyone else may find grounds for disappointment in the five years following a Macron victory is of course a discussion worth having (and Seymour Hersh on JFK is an eyeopening read).
Far more pressing however is a far-too-plausible concern: that the path of Macron's campaign was played out more recently by PSG. The debates worry me, I have to say.

Art Goldhammer said...

Me too. The debate between rounds will be decisive, and Macron is entirely untested in one-on-one debate with the likes of Le Pen, who has had years of experience at this sort of thing.

Mitch Guthman said...

Obviously, everyone is jumping on the Macron bandwagon because it's difficult to see anyone else making the second round against Le Pen. But two things to think about:

First, all of this elite support doesn't seem to be driving a groundswell of support for Macron. The most recent poll seems to suggest that he's barely outdrawing a man who's mired in an ever increasing, cascading cycle of scandal. It suggests to me that while Macron's support may be spanning the center to right of the political spectrum, it's also shallow, tentative and extremely fragile.

What's more, I think it's an open question what happens when Le Pen begins to actively campaign against Macron; whose support from this roster of political has beens makes him the poster child for her complaints that the political class is rotten to the core and incapable of giving France the leadership she needs. Also, a roster of support from across the political spectrum will make it very difficult for Macron to define himself and even more difficult to maneuver against Le Pen in the second round in order to maintain the kind of "republican front" necessary to defeat the more popular and stronger candidate.

Macron seems to me to be the second weakest and most vulnerable candidate in the second round against Le Pen. At this point, I would go further than simply saying that Marine Le Pen can win---against Macron or Fillon she's got to be considered a strong favorite

Tim said...

I do wish people here would stop beating around the bush and say they support MLP if they actually do so. I you want Marine Le Pen to win just say so. I know many who do. I won't bite back.

Lapinot said...

The relative uncertainty of his support is probably inevitable given his very unusual, rapid rise outside the usual party system. I don't think it's worth worrying about too much at this stage.

I don't see any grounds for considering Le Pen the favorite for the second round. It's not just a matter of a few percentage points, as with Trump or Brexit - the polls would have to be spectacularly wrong or something major would have to change. Both are possible, of course, but not likely enough to make her the favorite. And if Macron's performance in the polls for the first round in comparison to Fillon's is cause for worry, then surely the situation is similarly worrying for Le Pen, who is barely ahead of Macron?

Mitch Guthman said...

Lapinot,


I suppose it really a question of expectations and assumptions. For people of my generation and political tribe, the FN is simply beyond the pale and always will be. It's just unthinkable that the FN would ever be a serious participant in a national election.

On the other hand, Fillon is probably seriously to Le Pen's right on the economy (based on her supposed economic policies) and no great improvement in anything else. I see him becoming weaker and less attractive over time, even in comparison to MLP and particularly with younger voters and working or middle class voters.

And Macron, who is Macron? The best you can say about him is that he's a chancer and a bullshitter but not the second coming of Vichy. But what does he offer to the young, to the middle class and to the workers? Nothing but a continuation of austerity and Hollande's disastrously failed policies.

I don't understand how any of these three came to be leading candidates but for Macron and Fillon to be running behind a party of monsters says something very profoundly disturbing about French politics. The polling is pretty clear and since I don't see either Macron or Fillon improving in the second round, it's hard to MLP as anything but the favorite.

bert said...

A wise woman once said something wise about statements of fact and questions of motive.

On the discussion upthread about younger voters, a statement of fact: youth unemployment is 25%; over 80% of new jobs are on short-term contracts.

Marketing can take you a certain distance. But if your product is the status quo there are parts of the electorate where you're likely to struggle.

Tim said...

@bert

So what is MLP and Philpott going to do to fix this? Alas I am not French and I would just assume that Macron win but if MLP win I will personally see to it that MLP is destroyed and her "youth" supporters will enjoy 50% youth unemployment under my tender loving care.

MLP's youth supporters are unemployed because they are dumb and stupid compared to people like me(I am only 32 years old). If they elect MLP I will see to it that MLP youth supporters bare the full burden of their stupidity.

Anonymous said...

Many people on the left are mulling a 'vote utile due premier tour'. I don't think they believe Hamon or Melenchon will win but they 'd rather vote for Macron in the second round rather than the first.
Many people I know see him as a 'reasonable' choice, hence a possibility, an excellent way to kick Fillon out of the race and of course a way to block Le Pen, but they do not agree with his ideas. Yesterday I pointed out the 'housing tax' waiver and was answered 'will the state make it up or will it be a huge hole in the town's finances? If it's offset and paid back by the government where will the money come from? And if it's not offset by the government will they stop fixing roads, allocating funds to schools, keeping up public spaces!?what will they cut? Who will lose out? "
I had no answer.
Another point that's brought up often is the way he sees schools, which is very different from the way most French people see them.

Anonymous said...


@Tim I do wish people here would stop beating around the bush and say they support MLP if they actually do so.

That is an amusing statement. Most of the people here, including the author of this blog, would probably say they are on the left. That is why they cannot stand Macron, who is always saying he is neither left nor right, but both left and right, pro European and patriotic (Gaullist), liberal and social etc. MLP, with her base in what one might call the French equivalent of Hillary Clinton's "deplorables" (les petits blancs déclassés, franchouillards et racistes avec une frange de fascistes....) is seen by leftists as much more powerful than she is. Hence their belief that Macron may not be able to defeat her. Defeatists often sound like supporters of their opponents.

Lapinot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lapinot said...

I can see why people of the left might be reluctant to vote for Macron in the first round and rather follow their hearts with Hamon or Melenchon, and if Juppe were the LR candidate they might have a point. Then, if the worst came to the worst, you'd have a reasonable centre-right candidate to support against Le Pen. But with Fillon I can't help but see a vote for anyone other than Macron as massively irresponsible, leaving open the possibility of a second round between two far-right candidates.

Anonymous said...

Do you really think Fillon would make it to the second round rather than Macron? I can't imagine Dillon doing better than Macron.

Lapinot said...

I think Macron is the favorite, but only if people aren't complacent. Fillon isn't THAT far off the lead and if enough people decide Macron's through without their vote then the second round could very well be between Le Pen and Fillon.

bert said...

Regulars really ought to be posting with a name.
Not a good look not to.

Anonymous said...

Cher Bert:
"Qu'est-ce que c'est --Not a good look not to [post with a name]?
There are many "Anonymous"-es, including "moi".
Pourquoi, l'anonymite*? --So an idea can "float", free of the stigma of an identification to an individual and the rancor personalities can generate apart from their ideas.
Or is "French Politics" a club, whose readers and commentariat agree politically. I am on the center-Right, but I find Art's posts always well-founded, even if I don't accord with many of his premises. Occasionally, I comment. Is it not valuable to have this exchange, free of the personal animus that might attach to an commenter's identity as his point of view accretes with repeated comments? In an academic environment, this is of course, intolerable, but this is a freer arena than academia, and potentially more liberating intellectually. --That's why I read the blog, although I don't always agree with Art's views.
Unfortunately, the times are so intemperate, disagreement over principles is not well-tolerated.
I'd like to be able to state my views, and am happy to be excoriated for them as one of the "Anonymous". However, I hardly want to specify my identity so the attacks can take a more personal form. It is my belief that that is the norm today.
I note that I have always found it useful to remember that in civil wars, personal vendetta frequently masquerades as political denunciation. If Mao Tse-Tung's observation that "politics is war without bloodshed, war is politics with bloodshed" is correct, we would all do well to preserve the liberty of anonymous debate free of personal animadversions.
So allow us "Anonymous"-es, to express our ideas incognito and criticize the ideas we offer on their merits.
Anonymous

*Accent "aigu" missing over the "e" --I don't have a French keyboard.

bert said...

I see.

Do you have a view on the hijab?
I ask purely out of interest, you understand.

Anonymous said...

I sometimes post as anonymous as I don't want my identity public, but I'll sign with a pseudonym. I'm a left-of-center poster, currently living in a French town, in a rural 'department'. I typically identify these facts when posting.
Myos

Anonymous said...

I think the hijab is an expression of faith that is protected by the French constitution and the laicite compact. It can be imposed, especially upon children and teens, due to peer pressure or parental/big brother threats. It has many meanings, depending on the way it is tied, its colors or absence therefore, etc. A tied up rolled up bright red and yellow cloth with a boubou isn't the same as a black cover all with double hood nor is it the plain beige or grey that flows in the back and covers the throat and forehead.
No matter what we think of it, we need to learn and distinguish between the political hijab and the religious/cultural one, we must avoid all the hysterical confusions, two points that don't seem possible in the current political climate.

The protection of women/women's rights is both necessary and worthwhile as the regressions can't be denied, but right now it's used a props against Muslims and it blurs the issue.

I liked Hamon's reply to Vaucquiez this week, something like ' listening to you, it's as if sexism didn't exist in France till Muslims arrived.'
Myos

bert said...

From memory, I think JCW signs his or her posts the way you've done, myos.

My view is that when you post regularly somewhere like this you pick a screen name, stick to it and don't dick around with sockpuppets and the like. It's a very minimal, easy-to-follow set of rules. There's absolutely no requirement that you make yourself identifiable in the real world. And what's behind those minimal rules is consideration and respect for other people in the same position as you.

Anyone's free to disagree of course.
Lord knows nobody made me boss.
But you should at least take a moment to think through why I might be right about this.

Best wishes to all.

bernard said...

In a two main parties system such as France used to have, it made sense to vote for who you preferred in the first round, as your general camp would regroup in the second round. You could thus vote for a Melenchon (or the FCP) or even a militant trotskyst such as Arlette, just to try to influence and tilt somewhat your general camp in a certain direction.

In the present multi-party system that has taken ground in France, voting for the paleo-trotskyst Melenchon in the first round, and unfortunately also voting for Hamon who is running an even worse campaign than Jospin did - and that is saying something, believe you me - is exactly equivalent to attempting to place the SozNat MLP first in the first round. Anyone doing this is behaving precisely as the SozNat MLP's imbecile utile. That is what our armchair revolutionaries are doing, knowingly or unknowingly. I personally would feel deeply ashamed if I were part of those placing MLP first, but they will probably just feel principled in their armchair. Their paleo-trotskyst hero is objectively behaving as an ally to the SozNats.

It actually gets even worse. Are they behaving that way consciously or unconsciously? As a contribution to resolving this question, I note that just short of 50% of the paleo-trotskyst electorate intends to actually vote for the SozNat MLP in the second round, according to every single opinion poll where the question was asked. This is an actual polling fact that, strangely or perhaps not so strangely, not one supporter of the paleo-trotskyst and of course Melenchon himself has seen fit to mention or note even once. As a professional forecaster, let me provide a forecast that I hold for almost certain: some of the paleo-trotskyst supporters will soon accuse Macron of being too soft on Israel. Watch and see, that is who they are.

If someone feels offended by this, that is fine with me as they were intended to be. I have no truck with objective supporters of the SozNat.

And in fact, the evolution of predictions on Macron is laughable. First, he was going to collapse in the polls any time now, now that he keeps rising in the polls, he will not be able to face MLP without collapsing. Not one shred of evidence is ever presented of course. That reminds me of the rearguard fight by the British regarding the coming Euro in the nineties, which also made me laugh at the time. Except that this time this is more serious as it is akin to objective support for the SozNat MLP.

Let me remind everyone of the actual evidence: the one person who collapsed in front of the SozNat MLP so far was the paleo-trotskyst Melenchon, that was in June 2012 when he lost like a beginner against her in a parliamentary seat fight in Nord-Pas de Calais. And the one who lost against her father was Jospin, another veteran from OCI.

I strongly support Macron in this election, which does not mean that I support every utterance of his. Being a weak bourgeois, I prefer a bourgeois democracy to a SozNat regime. That, today, is the only alternative. And that was my answer to today's Que Faire question.



Tim said...

Yves Smith whom I disagree with on many things wrote a very good blog post on Frexit linked below:

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/03/debunking-5-myths-about-frexit.html

"You can sit there and say you don’t like it any more than you like our dependence on the internal combustion engine and how it is wrecking the planet. Do you have a solution for auto dependence that will take anything less than a generation to implement? Banking IT as a feature of advanced and even developing economies is every bit as fundamental to day to day provisioning.

Saying it is anti-democratic, which is true does not make it any less a binding constraint.

To put it more bluntly, and I hate to sound mean, but whinging is not a solution and naive idealism will do a tremendous amount of harm, as in kill people even faster than neoliberalism does now. I don’t see any remedies or alternatives from you. I have told you it will take war mobilization and years of planning, and even then the economies involved will take huge costs that will hit their poorest, most vulnerable citizens hardest. You are shooting the messenger."

Mitch Guthman said...

Tim,

The historically center-left parties in France, England and the USA have been following the same centrist, corporatist neoliberal path for the last thirty years or more. Our societies and our economies are in shambles. The vast majority of people are struggling and fearful for their future. And we’ve been consistently losing ground politically, too.

I think that we’re reaching the breaking point for just running to the center instead of proudly advocating for our own ideas. This really can’t go on for much longer. Whether it’s this election or next, the centrist string is played out; we can either return to the ideas that brought our parties of the center-left to prominence or we can continue losing ground to the far right.

Mitch Guthman said...

Bernard,

The most complete rebuttal of your argument is found in the post immediately preceding this one about the pull of the FN for young people. And I think the same principle applies in this election, too. Macron is riding high at the moment because his "ni-ni" line of bullshit allows him to posture himself as something new but I don't see that wearing well as people begin to demand fuller explanations.

Le Pen says she will protect the social welfare state, protect the middle class and workers, and will at least try to build a less bleak future for the young. You may not consider her to be sincere (and I don't) or like the future of economic growth at the expense of turning France into a fascist ethnic nationalist state allied with the likes of Trump and Putin (again, obviously, I don’t) but it’s a far more appealing program than what Macron is offering. A vote for Le Pen is a Faustian bargain but at least Le Pen is offering something to the people.

Macron offers basically Hollande's same tired, failed and extremely unpopular policies which he tries dressing up as something different with his bullshit "ni ni" catch-phrase. Le Pen’s is offering a better future. Macron is offering to manage France's decline on behalf of the oligarchs, faceless Eurocrats, and the Davos crowd as a good technocrat. I don't see that as a winning platform for attracting voters, not now and certainly not for the future.

Mitch Guthman said...

I would not be so certain that simply not being a member of the Le Pen family will be enough to energize most people (not just those on the left) to vote for a centrist cipher whose policies are demonstrably crappy in preference. Particularly when the monster in question has ostensible economic policies that are significantly more favorable to the middle class, the workers and the young. This is, in certain ways, a replay of the contest between the tired centrist corporatism of Hillary and extreme right white ethnonationalism.

This seems particularly true now that Sarkozy and his party have worked diligently for years to normalize the FN in hopes of ingratiating themselves with the extreme right and enjoying their support in the second round of national elections. Fillon certainly has nothing to offer anyone. He is well to the right of MLP’s ostensible positions on social and economic policies and has as nearly as many trolls hiding in his attic as she does. I would remind everyone that many of the vile "wine and saucisson" evenings were the work of Fillon's party.

But what does Macron have to offer? The subtle undercurrent of supply side economics and of austerity running through Macron's policies (and certainly those of many of his newfound friends) will not resonate well outside of the political class. Among ordinary people, there’s a strong desire for the preservation of the social welfare state and a heightened level of unease about the future. There is a pervasive feeling on both the left and the right that centrism is a dead end that only empowers the oligarchs and elites who annually pleasure themselves at Davos.

It is principally these social and economic concerns and not a any newly developed taste for "blood and soil" ethnonationalism that are driving the growth in the FN's support. We’ve seen this same story repeated again and again as defectors from the left have explained their motivations. But Macron has no answer for the people's fears except that a vote for him is to once again kick the can down the road in hopes that something will develop.

That is a losing strategy. Only Harmon with his new socialism of the possible offers a better future.

Scott said...

Hi, I'm a new poster. Enjoying this blog. I'd vote for Le Pen. I'll be in France April 10 to May 10 if anyone wants to hang out. Basically I've liked France as a country since first visit in 68 (age 16) and don't want it to disappear under globalization/EU/Islamicization. Terrible?

mpz13 said...

I have to make a confession. In the past I used to comment on this fine blog and others using the name Massilian, which was easily recognized when I used OpenID. But for some reason my Wordpress ID is not recognized here anymore, so it has been a few monthes now that I sign in with my Google ID instead, and for Google I am not Massilian, I am mpz13... Embarrassing... So, I wasn't hiding under a different pseudo to make different types of comments, I am not Janus...
I make this outing because I fully agree with the club regulations that distinguished members should introduce themselves and use a unique pseudo in their comments. I apologize for this unintended faux pas.
Besides that, I am beginning to be heavily bored by this presidential election which doesn't raise to the level of a mediocre Netflix original production.

bert said...

Are you not entertained? :)

I have far less sympathy for Le Pen's economic message than Mitch, but I recognise its appeal. Missing from the analysis (in fact, explicitly excluded if I'm reading you right, Mitch) is the racial divisiveness that Scott raises under the heading 'Islamicisation'. There's a strain of race-baiting in the States that uses demographic arguments to push a Clash of Civilisations. When not gnashing and wailing about Sweden (”Sweden!”) the default example is France, home of Europe's largest Muslim population. It's a vile strain of argument. It has proven effective in the past. And when was the last time a presidential election took place under a state of emergency?

The economic message will be loud and clear. By contrast, far more of the racist message will be delivered by dog-whistle. For MLP to win, both messages will be needed to drive FN turnout while other voters stay away, disillusioned, from the polls.

bernard said...

Now that MPZ13 has outed himself as the former Massilian, things are more understandable. I did think that both in style and opinion, there was a resemblance between both or else it must be an epidemic of Marseillais reading Art! I was puzzled to find myself often agreeing with two distinct commentators.

Why an Anonymous would want to stay anonymous puzzles me as well. It's only a pen name, we're not asking for your official ID...

Scott said...

As someone famous almost said, you might not be interested in the clash of civilizations, but the clash of civilizations is interested in you.

Tim said...

@Mitch

If the EU is so bad why are the social democratic Scottish Nationalists so eager to stay in?

Lapinot said...

My view on the EU is that for all its faults, the core countries (for all their individual faults) have the way of life I find most admirable and positive in the world today.

And the best way for those countries to influence the world and protect their way of life (at least in the medium term) is through the EU. The countries on their own simply won't have the size to gainsay giants like the US, China and India (and looking a little further ahead, perhaps, Brazil etc.)

The best way for France to remain France is through the EU.

Mitch Guthman said...

@ Lapinot, I agree with you entirely, although I personally believe that the real importance of the EU is putting an end to the eternal quest for European hegemony and entombing the demons that made the twenty century such a bloodbath. But the EU’s poor design and the adoption of the common currency, combined with the habit of kicking cans down the road has meant that it was always a shaky foundation.

But the EU’s reckless expansion, the arrogant and uncompromising belief of the political class that only market based ideas have validity and its disastrous handling of the financial crisis of 2008 has imperiled the entire European project. The insistence on imposing reckless, irrational and murderous austerity in Europe has done far more to awaken the old demons and legitimize the extreme right than anything else.

@ Tim,

I think you have entirely misread me. The EU has been, on balance, a very good thing; and it has the potential to be a truly great thing. Certainly, it ended the rivalry between France and Germany—which is, in itself, an incalculable good. As I said above, where things have gone wrong is in the concept of “centrism” and the promotion of neoliberalism as a substitute for the social welfare state, which the overwhelming majority of people in Europe want. It is the failure of the political elites to stand up for the social welfare state that is at the root of all our problems today.

What I have been calling for all along is that we embrace a new “socialism of the possible”.

@ Scott,

I don’t disagree that there’s a clash of cultures brewing. But where I think Huntington went badly wrong is his prediction of which cultures would be clashing. My culture base of cultural identity is descended from the Enlightenment. That means I have far more in common with most other secularized people in Europe and North America than I do with religious and political extremists, be they Muslim, Jewish, Christian or fascist.

I suspect that my cultural identity as an American is in far more danger from what I assume to be your tribe than from the Islamists. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to live in their world but they are the distant enemy whereas the extreme right is already here and growing in power.

Maybe the clash of civilizations isn’t going to work out how the right wants because it is becoming increasingly clear to more and more people in the West that the more immediate need is to defend the Enlightenment from the barbarians who are already inside the walls. I’m certainly ready to defend my right to remain in the 21st Century.

Anonymous said...

The generally accepted understanding of Huntington is that he misunderstood which groups would be "clashing" - the reality turned out to be Pluralistic Society's Proponents vs. proponents of dictatorship/autocracy, or as Mitch puts it, descendents from the Enlightenment vs. religious&political extremists.

@Mitch I recommend a book by the late Tzvetan Todorov, _The Fear of Barbarians_.

One hopeful note: talking with students a couple weeks ago, they expressed utter astonishment that anyone coud have thought Huntington's thesis of a clash between religious group was true "as is", as it seemed to make no sense to them, so clear it seems that the clash, and the real battle, is between those who claim to have absolute truth and will kill for it, and those who support many freedoms and many rights including democracy. That one might, at a time, have thought Muslims didn't want democracy, or that the only choice for Middle Eastern countries' populations was either a dictator or a terrorist, upset them. They actually blame whoever thought that and thus didn't support democratic movements in the Middle East.

Mitch Guthman said...

@ Anonymous,

Thanks for the suggestion. The reviews looked interesting and I'm going to be stuck on an airplane for 11 hours on Sunday and a train for 5 hours on Monday, so I bought the ebook version.

Mitch

Anonymous said...

Cool. I hope you like it. I love Todorov. Simple writing, profund ideas, makes you feel smarter.